Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is actually the small round seeds of an annual herb that is part of the grass family. It grows only at high altitudes and is native to South America. White quinoa seems to be the only type sold in this area, and I have been surprised to find it in the regular supermarkets.
Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and unlike other grains, it is a complete protein all by itself. White quinoa becomes almost translucent when it is cooked, and you can see the germ of the seed, the little curled “tail” that gives quinoa its slightly crunchy texture.
Like many people these days, we’re trying to include more whole grains in our diet. When we first started, some were very new to us, including quinoa. I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to cook it or how I was going to serve it. Then someone told me to use it the same way I would use rice… as a side dish or as part of a soup, cold salad, stir fry, or pilaf. It is wonderful in puddings and stuffings and as a cereal. It also makes a great baby food. And quinoa is gluten-free.
The first red/pink primroses from my own collected seed
Quinoa has a natural bitter coating that must be rinsed away, so I always start by rinsing the little round “seeds” under running water until the water runs clear. I usually slightly toast the quinoa before cooking and sometimes (but not always) add a bit of olive oil to the cooking water for flavor.
I cook quinoa the same way I cook rice… using the method for cooking pasta and a large pot of boiling water. I just add as much quinoa as I need to the water (one cup uncooked quinoa makes three to four cups cooked), stir it once, and adjust the heat as necessary so the water continues to boil. I do not cover the pot.
I continue to cook the quinoa until it is tender to taste. This usually takes twenty to twenty-five minutes. Then I drain the quinoa in a colander. I find this much easier than the usual method for cooking rice (or quinoa)… measuring two cups of water for every cup of rice and simmering for an allotted time. One other plus with the open kettle method and lots of water is that the quinoa is always perfectly cooked and fluffy.